Let’s talk about another medium for a bit. Music. It is probably the medium that affects us most in daily life as we hear music everywhere whether it be on the radio in the car, in the shops or in adverts. While pop music seems to be decline with the charts being as irrelevant as they have ever been, it still dominates society. I imagine you’ve all heard Camila Cabello’s Havana about a million times like I have and that Drake is a constant nuisance in your life as well. One day he will do an upbeat song. One day. But music is very important to us for that reason as we all relate certain songs to important moments in our life. So of course we are going to back the hero in today’s movie, Coco.
Young boy Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez, The Bridge) has a dream of becoming a musician. The only problem is that his family hates music and has banned it because of an ancestor running away to play music himself. Miguel becomes frustrated and runs away himself but accidentally ends up in the Land of the Dead. While there he not only needs to prove to his family that he should be allowed to be a musician but also get back to the land of the living by sunrise or else be stuck forever.
So after taking the basic premise from The Cat Returns where someone is stuck in another world and must get out before being turned into the occupants of said world, Pixar and Studio Ghibli are very similar after all, Coco then gets very fun and creative. The movie is about music and family and the importance of both. So the main dilemma for Miguel is that while he loves music and wants to become a famous musician like his hero Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt, Miss Congeniality), he has to reconcile that with the fact his family hates music and will not tolerate any attempt of him trying to be musical. Not even being in the plaza to shine the shoes of musicians. What’s most interesting about this is that many films say you should ignore your family on things like this and go achieve your dreams. You can name a million films where stuffy parents try to suppress their kids from goign after their dream but they go and do it anyway. This movie has a bit of that but twists it to make the family sympathetic and obviously caring for Miguel even if they aren’t doing it in the best way. You only have to do slight twists at times to make things feel new.
The movie though will live and die on it’s representation of the Land of the Dead. The movie is based on the holiday the Day of the Dead, a spiritual holiday from Mexico where people get together to remember those who have died. It is something that has been appearing more and more in movies, notably the beginning of Spectre, so it’s no surprise to see someone do a full film based on the holiday. I can’t comment if the movie is respectful to the holiday, only a Mexican can do that really, but I can say that I love the Land of the Dead. It is a brilliant world and I love so many of the little things that are present in the world. The customs branch which allows people to go over to the land of the living to see their family is a funny touch which is later used for good emotional effect. And the movie is full of these little things which make this seem like a real world rather than one nice idea in an animators head.
It also helps that the Land of the Dead looks absolutely stunning as well. I remember a few years ago that I thought Pixar’s animation was a bit bland and the only issue they had when it came to making movies. I very much doubt any of them read my review but obviously a memo of the sort went around the offices because ever since The Good Dinosaur, the flawed but beautiful movie which ripped off The Lion King, they have been making movies which are just breathtaking to just watch even when you have the mute button on. The Land of the Living is fine enough, the best part about it are the great character models, but it is the Land of the Dead which looks amazing. Even though it is mostly in darkness, the lights which all seem to be from massive candles and the colours used make this a fantastic place to be. It is a delight to the eyes and it’s obvious that the animators have had the time of their lives designing this world.
And yes this is a Pixar movie and it’s about death so you should be bringing your tissues. This is an emotional movie which will definitely touch a few people’s emotional nerves, especially everything revolving around the matriach of the family, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia, Written of the Body of Night). Seriously, when she shows up there will be tears no matter what scene she is in. But Pixar always have this amazing ability to find that thing will make you weepy for the rest of the day and I can’t go into it too much for fear of spoilers, but they find it once again in this movie where they have you claiming that the room you are in is very dusty.
Yeah, just like that guy there. Pah, why can’t that guy just admit he was crying into his pillow?
There are a few minor problems I have to address which might make the room even dustier for some of you. While the ending is definitely one that will get those tears coming, there is something that is a bit too perfect about it. Not everything has to be wrapped up perfectly guys. It’s not a huge flaw but something that bothered me a bit. Anything else? Well, err, not really. The movie is incredibly good and has little wrong with it. It felt wrong to bring up that complaint but I have to find some sort of balance.
Even with that tiny, minor, almost pointless complaint, Coco is very good and definitely another must watch movie from Pixar. This is a beautiful movie about why both family and music are important. Kids will love it and so will the adults watching it with them. And after the kids have gone to bed, the adults will put it back on so they can openly weep instead of keeping it in for the children. It’s divine. Remember guys when we thought Pixar were going to be terrible after Cars 2? That was a laugh.